Muthos

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In his Poetics Aristotle states that Muthos comes first in tragedy and is all important. Without it there is no tragedy. Discuss his claim in relation to one or two plays studied this term.

In his Poetics Aristotle puts the Muthos before anything else. Muthos is the plot/storyline of a play. You should be able to follow the line of the plot throughout the text. If one element of the text can be removed then it fails as a tragedy. Tragedy must have a beginning, middle and an end, not necessarily in that order but scenes must relate to each other and be ‘unified'. We see this in Marina Carr's Portia Coughlin. The end is in the middle of the play but the plot is still unified. In his Poetics Aristotle states that there are three main functions of Muthos, peripeteia (reversal) and anagonorisis (recognition or discovery). Periperteia is the point in which ‘the circumstances change to their direct opposite' and should be ‘inevitable or plausible.' It is the pivotal moment when the character is forced to see a situation in a different light. In Portia Coughlin this comes in act one scene seven, up until this point she has tolerated Raphael but here she explodes and tells him exactly how she feels. The audience already know how she feels but this is the first time she says it out loud. Recognition is the point at which the character realises what has happened and attempts to take action whether this is for better or worse. The recognition in Portia Coughlin comes in act three scene three when she is sitting on the bank with Maggie, she talks about Gabriel and how she wishes she could be with him. This is when she starts thinking about carrying through the pact that they made which left him dead. I believe this because this is when she starts to give Raphael a little attention and for the first time talks about having to pick her children up from school. The third element of tragedy that Aristotle talks about seems to be extremely obvious, this is Pathos (suffering), ‘that is, a painful or fatal incident, such as death onstage, maiming or extreme torture.' Carr manages to include two out of the three types of suffering in Portia Coughlin. We are given a graphic image of Portia's body being pulled from the river and throughout the text we see her suffering mentally because she can not cope with the death of Gabriel. This is later explained because she was meant to commit suicide as well but stopped herself.

In Portia Coughlin I couldn't decide where the reversal came. There were two moments at which it could have happened. The first one is when Portia vehemently tells Raphael exactly how she feels about him. Up until this point, although her behaviour has been anything but loving, this can be explained by thinking she is a depressed woman in a failing marriage. There is no love there but we also do not know how much she loathes him.

I completely and utterly despise you for what you are in yourself, but more for who you will never be.

This could be the reversal because this is the point at which we really understand how loveless this marriage has always been and therefore how unhappy Portia's life has been. The whimsical reasons that it occurred in the first place have already been revealed two scenes earlier when Portia is talking to Marianne, he had ‘a angel's name, same as Gabriel's/ one'd take on the qualities of the other.' It seems that this is the point at which Portia realises she cannot go on living her life this way. It is obvious through the text that Portia loved Gabriel in an extraordinary way. This is explained by them being twins. ‘I have heard that the bond between twins is ever strange and inexplicable' but in the third act we are given the revelation that they were having sex. This explains why she tells Raphael that she despises him; he will never be Gabriel. If it had been a normal relationship between brother and sister the loss may have been enough to accept, but because the nature of their...
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